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Draft Philosophy

The following comment by kozanack (in connection with this post) about what the Texans should do in the upcoming draft got me thinking:

"If I'm the Texans, I am taking the best player available. It is definitely apparent that they need help in the secondary and with the pass rush (maybe a OLB).  Although an impact RB would be great, I think a better pass rush would have a bigger impact.  But I think they shouldn't reach. Just continue to be patient and look for value and fit."

It raises a great question.  Namely, are the Texans good enough to draft for need?  Or is the overall talent level still in such a state that the Texans should simply draft the best player available each time they're on the clock?

Last year's selection of Amobi Okoye at No. 10 overall was clearly a prime example of taking the best player available.  From a need perspective, the Texans seemed to have far more glaring needs at WR, OL, and DB.  But Rick Smith made it clear that Okoye was the highest rated player left on the Texans' draft board, and that was the determining factor:

"He was our top-rated defensive player on the board," Texans general manager Rick Smith said. "For him to be there at the 10th pick was a pleasant surprise for us."

After Okoye, did the Texans go best available with their remaining picks?  My initial reaction is no; it appears they drafted for need.  The Texans went WR, DB, DB, OL, OL, LB to round out their 2007 draft; all of those positions (save possibly LB) were undoubtedly the weakest areas of the 2006 squad.  Sure, "best available" is in the eye of the beholder; the Texans may have honestly thought that Jacoby Jones was the best player available when they picked in the third round, Fred Bennett the best available in the fourth, and so forth.  But to my admittedly amateur eye, it looks like management targeted specific positions and went from there, instead of simply acquiring the highest-rated player left on their board.

So what will the Texans, coming off the most promising season in franchise history, do this year?  For example, could Smithiak really take a defensive lineman again at No. 18?

I say yes--they absolutely could.  I know there's no way it'd ever happen, but imagine if Glenn Dorsey or Chris Long fell to the Texans.  Are you telling me that they pass up the opportunity to acquire either of those guys just because of who's currently on the roster?  No way.  Realistically, however, I'd be shocked if the Texans didn't (1) trade back; (2) draft a DB; (3) draft a RB; or (4) draft a OL at No. 18, and then specifically target areas of need in the later rounds.  Then again, I never would have thought that they'd have drafted Amobi Okoye.